Lord, Graham 1943–
Lord, Graham 1943–
Born February 16, 1943, in Umtali, Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe); son of Harold (a businessman) and Ida Lord; married Jane Carruthers, 1962 (marriage ended); partner of Juliet Lewis (an artist); children: Mandy, Kate. Education: Churchill College, Cambridge, B.A. (with honors), 1965. Hobbies and other interests: Books, films, music, and travel.
Writer, biographer, novelist, columnist, and journalist. Cambridge News, Cambridge, England, reporter, 1964; Sunday Express, London, England, reporter, 1965-69, literary editor and books columnist, 1969-92; reporter and writer for the Daily Telegraph, London Times, and Daily Mail, 1992—.
Marshmallow Pie, Coward-McCann (New York, NY), 1970.
A Roof under Your Feet, Macdonald (London, England), 1973.
The Spider and the Fly, Hamilton (London, England), 1974, Viking (New York, NY) 1975.
God and All His Angels, Hamilton (London, England), 1976, Viking (New York, NY), 1977.
The Nostradamus Horoscope, Hutchinson (London, England), 1981.
Time Out of Mind, Hamilton (London, England), 1986.
A Party to Die For, Warner (London, England), 1997.
Sorry, We're Going to Have to Let You Go, Little, Brown (London, England), 1999.
Ghosts of Solomon's Mines: Mozambique and Zimbabwe: A Quest (autobiography), Sinclair-Stevenson (London, England), 1991.
Just the One: The Wives and Times of Jeffrey Bernard, Sinclair-Stevenson (London, England), 1992.
James Herriot: The Life of a Country Vet (biography), Carroll & Graf (New York, NY), 1997.
Dick Francis: A Racing Life, Little, Brown (London, England), 1999.
Arthur Lowe, Orion (London, England), 2002.
Niv: The Authorized Biography of David Niven, Thomas Dunne Books/St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2005.
John Mortimer: The Devil's Advocate, Orion (London, England), 2005, published as John Mortimer: The Secret Lives of Rumpole's Creator, Thomas Dunne Books (New York, NY), 2006.
Raconteur (a short story magazine), editor, 1994-96. Contributor to Triangles, edited by Alex Hamilton, Hutchinson (London, England), 1973, The Thirteenth Ghost Book, edited by James Hale, Barrie & Jenkins (London, England), 1977, The After-Midnight Ghost Book, edited by James Hale, Hutchinson (London, England), 1980, and The Mystery Guild Anthology, edited by John Waite, Book Club Associates/Constable (London, England), 1980.
Author's works have been translated into French, Italian, Dutch, Portuguese, German, Russian, and Chinese.
Graham Lord once told CA that writing novels "is cheaper than booze and more effective than psychiatry, and like both should be firmly resisted as far as possible." Indeed, Lord, a former Fleet Street reporter and literary editor, has produced a number of novels beginning in 1970. But his writing also embraces biography, notably of several British celebrities.
In 1992 Lord produced a close look at a famous journalist in Just the One: The Wives and Times of Jeffrey Bernard. A columnist for Spectator, Bernard had for years chronicled his life in what critic Laurie Taylor characterized in New Statesman & Society as a "suicide note in weekly installments." When he announced his plans to examine Bernard, Lord wrote in Just the One, "some suggested … this book would be superfluous since Bernard had written his own life story in his column.
They were wrong … there were numerous secret corners of his life that he had kept hidden." Still, New Statesman & Society reviewer Taylor remained among the skeptics. In her review of Just the One, she criticized Lord for taking on as a subject a man who "did, after all, invent the ‘Jeffrey Bernard’ of his columns," and suggested that there is "something desperately absurd about trying to show with cold biographical evidence … that he somehow got it wrong."
Lord went head-to-head with another British icon in 1997's James Herriot: The Life of a Country Vet. Herriot's celebrity, of course, transcends the boundaries of the United Kingdom—in fact, it was Lord's 1972 Sunday Express review of It Shouldn't Happen to a Vet that helped propel Herriot into the literary world. The unassuming Yorkshire veterinarian caused a sensation with his subsequent bestsellers, including All Creatures Great and Small. Herriot—a pseudonym of James "Alf" Wight—died in 1995, and in Lord's volume the life and work of the man are recounted from his hardscrabble youth in Glasgow, Scotland, to his clinic where Herriot practiced for more than fifty years.
In what Library Journal reviewer Diane Premo called "a warm, candid portrait," Lord assesses the impact of Herriot's fame, revealing his subject as "modest and self-effacing in the extreme." Nor does the biographer hesitate to point out the literary embellishments that distinguished Herriot the character from Alf Wight the inspiration. The Yorkshire vet—who, Lord reveals, had a nervous breakdown and was also plagued by debt—and his counterparts—wife "Helen" and partners "Siegfried" and "Tristan," "none of whom shines under Lord's scrutiny," according to a Kirkus Reviews critic—were not exactly as depicted in books and the popular public television series. Reading this, some Herriot fans were disappointed, while others, including the Kirkus Reviews contributor, found value in the way Lord analyzes "the simple, direct style Wight brought to his homey material."
Niv: The Authorized Biography of David Niven is Lord's official biography of debonair British actor, David Niven. Lord begins from the vantage point of knowing that Niven himself had written two successful autobiographies, and that the actor's stories of his life were frequently exaggerated. In this context, Lord "sets out to gently correct the record," commented a Publishers Weekly reviewer. As a biographer, Lord "chose well with Niven, who lived a hugely entertaining life if not necessarily a profound one," remarked Bruce Handy in the New York Times Book Review. He details Niven's early days in Hollywood and his struggles to establish himself as an actor, with considerable coverage of Niven's nearly fifty years as a comforting presence on the British and American screen. Lord recounts how Niven left Hollywood to serve during World War II, at perhaps considerable damage to his then-developing acting career. He discusses some of Niven's most notable films, including the Pink Panther, Around the World in Eighty Days, Casino Royale, and Separate Tables, which earned Niven an Oscar in 1959. Among the nuggets of Hollywood trivia served by Lord is the fact that Niven and Bette Davis were originally cast to play the leads in the African Queen, roles later made famous by Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn; he was once considered for the role of James Bond; and he turned down lead roles in Lolita and My Fair Lady, which went to James Mason and Rex Harrison, Handy reported. Lord also covers many personal details of Niven's life, including his numerous liaisons with famous Hollywood starlets, including Merle Oberon, Rita Hayworth, Marilyn Monroe, and Ava Gardner; his two marriages, the second of which was brittle and unhappy; and his declining health and eventual death from Lou Gehrig's disease. The Publishers Weekly contributor concluded that throughout Lord's biography, Niven's "reputation as a lovable raconteur remains untarnished, even by the truth."
Throughout his career, Lord has developed a reputation as a contentious biographer who persisted in writing about his subjects even when they objected, and who sought to expose aspects of their lives they would have preferred to keep hidden. This perception of Lord-as-biographer became an impediment when he undertook a biography of English writer and barrister John Mortimer, the creator of famed fictional barrister Rumpole of the Bailey. At first, Lord received Mortimer's cooperation in creating an official biography, but later the writer withdrew his permission and support. Undaunted, Lord proceeded to write an unauthorized biography, published as John Mortimer: The Devil's Advocate in Great Britain and as John Mortimer: The Secret Lives of Rumpole's Creator in the United States. Lord covers Mortimer's youth, his development as a law professional and as a writer, and his status as creator of one of crime fiction's most enduring characters. He also delves into less savory aspects of Mortimer's life, including his reputation as a womanizer, his personality quirks, his tendency to inflate stories of his past, and his legal championing of pornography in Britain that Lord feels contributed to the country's moral decay.
Though some critics recognized the depth of detail and research in the biography, they also saw Lord's approach as being somewhat vengeful. "Rumbustious yet censorious, prurient yet perceptive about his subject's qualities as a prolific novelist, playwright and scriptwriter, the result is the work of a rejected suitor, bent on a degree of revenge," observed Jeremy Lewis in the Sunday Times. A Kirkus Reviews critic remarked, however, that Lord's biography offers "breathless prose and many juicy revelations—an absorbing read."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Lord, Graham, Just the One: The Wives and Times of Jeffrey Bernard, Sinclair-Stevenson (London, England), 1992.
Booklist, October 15, 1997, Margaret Flanagan, review of James Herriot: The Life of a Country Vet, p. 371.
Bookseller, August 26, 2005, "In the Dock: Lord Creates a Rumpus about Rumpole," review of John Mortimer: The Devil's Advocate, p. 39.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1997, review of James Herriot, p. 61; September 1, 2004, review of Niv: The Authorized Biography of David Niven, p. 850; June 1, 2006, review of John Mortimer: The Secret Life of Rumpole's Creator, p. 559.
Library Journal, October 15, 1997, Diane Premo, review of James Herriot, p. 61; February 15, 1998, Linda Bredengerd, review of James Herriot, p. 183; September 15, 2002, Theresa Connors, audiobook review of Dick Francis: A Racing Life, p. 111.
New Statesman, September 12, 2005, Celia Brayfield, "A Biographer Scorned," review of John Mortimer: The Devil's Advocate, p. 52.
New Statesman & Society, November 27, 1992, Laurie Taylor, review of Just the One, p. 40.
New York Times Book Review, January 9, 2005, Bruce Handy, "Niv: Blithe Spirit," review of Niv.
Observer (London, England), August 28, 2005, Caroline Boucher, "Trash Rumpole at Your Peril," review of John Mortimer: The Devil's Advocate.
Publishers Weekly, September 13, 2004, review of Niv, p. 65; April 10, 2006, review of John Mortimer: The Secret Lives of Rumpole's Creator, p. 53.
Spectator, November 9, 2002, Jonathan Cecil, "The Man Who Hated Being Typecast—And Was," review of Arthur Lowe, p. 80; November 15, 2003, Hugh Massingberd, "It's Being so Cheerful that Keeps Me Going," review of Niv, p. 52.
Sunday Times (London, England), August 21, 2005, Jeremy Lewis, review of John Mortimer: The Devil's Advocate.
Graham Lord Home Page,http://www.graham-lord.com (December 17, 2006).